The year is 2013 AD:
The time is a future, which is a cold place. Kurt Wagner, Scott Summers, Bobby Drake, Amanda Sefton, Charles Xavier – the X-Men – are all dead. In 2013, the Sentinels took America in their steel-ice fists, and squeezed out its heart. The giant robots fulfilled their terrible programming to the extremes that machines are capable of – every mutant in America was sealed in disgusting concentration camps, awaiting certain pointless death. It was then that the Sentinels cast their glass eyes across the water, to Europe and Great Britain – and only Black Air, the British Security Service charged with paranormal investigation was prepared.
In Britain, with an efficient autonomy agreement from the Sentinels, Black Air runs Great Britain, using secret technologies gathered from the mid-1990’s to scour mutants from the island. More than ever, Britain is a dark, beaten place.
Once though, it had heroes. In the mid-1990’s, Excalibur, Britain’s premiere super hero team, with the aim of bringing one mans dream to the other side of the world existed, and were even celebrated as-if they were the Avengers at one point. The were Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner, team leader and teleporting elf. Kitty Pryde sometimes called “Shadowcat” who can walk through walls and is a genius. “Colossus” - Piotr Rasputin, the Russian man of steel. The beautiful Amanda Sefton, less frequently called “Daytripper” one of the few non-mutant followers of the dream, was a powerful sorceress. Brian Braddock, the former “Captain Britain”, an iconic hero. His lover, Meggan, the elemental fairy. Rahne Sinclair, a good girl who turns into “Wolfsbane” a bad wolf. Douglock, a techno-organic that looks like a dead boy, and Peter Wisdom, a very rude man. The legendary Dr. Moira MacTaggert aided the nine heroes who lived upon her island – Muir Island, off the coast of Scotland, where a man called Rory Campbell worked also.
But the future has burned them all. Kurt Wagner returned to America following the takeover, and died holding the hand of his mother, Mystique. Piotr Rasputin and Kitty Pryde returned to the States with him – to marry. Amanda Sefton was brutally killed by her mad mother, the witch Margali Szardos. Douglock vanished. As for the rest of Excalibur…
…They were forced to abandon the Muir Island Research Station, and the remains of the team relocated to England, the ruins of Braddock Manor, one of their former headquarters. A headquarters, which has many secrets, for James Braddock, the father of Brian, had a secret – he was from a parallel Earth, and he brought his tools with him. Tools to create a magickal tapestry beneath the manor, which integrated into it was an intelligent mineral computer system, thus becoming the revolutionary headquarters of Excalibur!
Rahne Sinclair sits at a desk with a computer, staring into it, she remembers how she used to miss the daylight being locked up inside here, she even used to have a personal church in her head where she could retire to when things got really bad. Now though, Rahne Sinclair is a demolished woman. She watches surveillance feeds that have been securely beamed to Excalibur by members of the Resistance Coordination Executive. She hardly even flinches at what she sees now; attacks swarmers hunting mutants by following their shed skin cells; the Hanging Tree, where the corpse’s meat is left until it slides off the bones; The Oswentry mass graves where Black Air troops divest the bodies of possessions and gold fillings. Britain sails by in a river of blood.
Elisabeth Braddock enters the room and alerts Rahne to her presence. Betsy doesn’t need Rahne to turn around to see her haunted eyes, for she can see them reflected in a blood-red computer screen, so she keeps her distance. Trying to make conversation, Betsy mentions that England looks worse than America these days…before proclaiming that if she’d never argued with Warren and came home before the American take over. Rahne cuts her off, and with a sharp tongue reminiscent of her mothers, Moira MacTaggert, she tells Betsy not to be daft, as she would have just ended up sharing a grave with him.
Betsy is about to say something when she is cut off by another entering the room – Tangerine – who is always stirring things with Betsy jokes that she didn’t realize people of her breeding knew the words she was thinking. Betsy glares at the annoying redhead and after Tangerine informs the veteran heroes that their “master” wants to see them, Betsy orders her to stay out of her mind. Tangerine glances back at Betsy and tells her that she would be glad to, for it is rather messy inside, and trying to annoy Betsy further asks her if she is still having the dream about burning wings.
Tangerine walks up to Brian and Meggan, whose beautiful long blond hair has been replaced by a very short, cropped look. Tangerine mentions that this must be a big deal, to which Meggan reminds her that it has been months since their leader wanted to talk to them as a full team. The handsome Brian Braddock mumbles that their leaders paranoia will see them all dead, especially the way he is keeping secrets all the time. Brian jokes that he is surprised he and Meggan were allowed to marry because of a possible security breach before opening the curtain and suggesting that they get the meeting over and done with.
Excalibur enter the room where their wheelchair-bound leader – Pete Wisdom – is smoking. Pete was a former Black Air operative, who quit in the mid-1990’s – after that he started losing things – like Kitty Pryde, a woman he loved but could never quite tell her. He lost friends people he considered friends, people like Kurt and Amanda and Moira, but could never quite tell them they were his friend. Black Air came back to haunt him by reminding him that no one truly escapes them, and they caused the loss of his legs.
Standing at his side, is a woman wearing a black dress, not very appropriate for a hero, but then again Xi’an Coy Mahn has never been one for the heroics business. A former teammate of Rahne’s, she did what she had to do out of necessity, not because she wanted to. No one knows if she lost anything in the takeover, she keeps her distance from her teammates. But she only answers to “Karma” now. Pete tells Excalibur that they took their time, and Karma informs them that Pete has them a mission. Wisdom turns and looks up at Karma, crossly telling her that he can tell them himself he has a mission. ‘Of course you can, Pete’ Karma says nonchalantly.
Pete reveals that he knows where Douglock, a former teammate is and that Excalibur is going to get him. He proclaims that RCX guerrillas have identified specific radiations that Douglock’s techno-organics emit as emanating from the Blackwall, and that he is on the summit of it. Wisdom adds that Douglock might have vanished since then, but he may have learned important information about Black Air, which, if they could pull that information from him, it could give them the edge over Black Air they so desperately need.
Karma smiles and asks who she gets to “ride”. When she gets no volunteers, she uses her mutant power to take telepathic possession of another person. She is so good at it now that she can do it so she no longer controls them, but can see through the victims’ eyes. This way, through Karma and her victim, Wisdom can keep in touch with the team, while remaining in hiding. This process however is unpleasant for her “ride” – in this case, Brian Braddock. As the former Captain Britain keels over in pain, Karma jokes, telling him that for such a big strong man, he ought to be able to handle the pressure. She strokes Wisdom’s chin until he tells her to stop, as they need to get to work.
Time passes as Excalibur scheme and argue with each other on how to best handle the situation, and eventually the team’s aircraft, the Midnight Runner, rises from the Manor’s wreckage, wrapped in stealth shields, and it slides silently across a broken sky, above dead cities that stand in wordless horror. They have been infected at the edges by perverted new life forms that gestated in the rural plague-pits. Rahne looks out the window at the demolished cities below her, but her expression never changes from that of emotionless.
Excalibur approach London, where the air is now thick and the Blackwall stands in the center of the capital, one mile high and full of the worst things in Britain. Brian and Meggan leap from the plane and fly towards the home of Black Air, they know the exact location of Douglock, and the founding members get to open the door for the others. They do so by ripping a slab of concrete off the roof of the building. Meggan alerts the others to the entrance and reminds them what Wisdom said - to make their drop on the second pass.
The other three land, and as usual, Tangerine begins to complain, until Rahne tells her to get in the building and quit mithering. Betsy tells everyone to be quiet as they only have a few seconds to move to Douglock’s location as they planned. Brian reminds his twin sister that they have done this sort of thing before, but Rahne informs them that the corridor smells wrong. Brian tells her to define “wrong” and keep moving using the shadows like Betsy taught them all.
Rahne looks up as she proclaims that they are not walls and that they smell like Douglock did. Meggan sees the walls change shape, and warns everyone that they are techno-organics, and as Psylocke points out, they are using the brood as a template form. One of the warliquids attacks Meggan, and as Brian rushes to her defense, she asks him to give her a second while she gets hold of their electrical auras with her elemental powers. But as Brian smashes the techno-organic, thus freeing Meggan, reminds her that they do not have a second to spare.
As Wolfsbane and Psylocke enter the fray, attacking one of the creatures, Betsy tells Tangerine to stop gawking at them and find the door to Douglock’s’ enclosure that the RCX identified. Wolfsbane mumbles that this is what they deserve for hiring children to work alongside them, more so when Tangerine calls back to Psylocke that the door is linked to a neural lock, and when she tried reading its mind it just kept calling her rude names. The brain sitting inside a tank by the door asks Tangerine if she is still trying to pick him, until Psylocke rushes over, complaining that this is what happens when you send a girl to do a woman’s job. As the brain tells Betsy he fancies her she tells it to die, and stabs it with her psychic knife.
The door opens as the lock dies, screaming, and Excalibur leap forward towards Douglock, taken away from them when he was trying to discover love, humanity and happiness. Some may say that Douglock deserved this fate less than any of them, which is perhaps why he got it – reduced to a hundred thin miles of sparking techno-organic thread. Douglock can no longer speak, he has been dissected by Black Air, the secrets of his mineral sentience empowered the Black Air takeover. Douglock has become the operating system of Blackwall, the heart of Black Air – Excalibur were fighting him all the time. Black Air rush in, surrounding Excalibur, this is how it ends for England, and the rest of Excalibur.
Brian Braddock wakes up in shock. He has recently returned from the most horrific event of his life thus far, he was trapped outside the stream of time itself, and smeared across it – experiencing all of it at one time, all of history crammed into a brain not designed to contain it. A subconscious defense mechanism periodically spills these memories out of his head slowly divesting itself of the excess information. Brian saw what England will be like in several years, but he hasn’t realized it until now. He will not sleep again tonight, and tomorrow is going to come down hard.